Importance of Liming

10 Dec Importance of Liming

ETX Drive Illustrates Why You Really Need a Soil Test

Analysis finds huge variations for pH in soils

By HUGH SOAPE

Gregg County Extension Agent

The results of the recent Gregg-Upshur County Soil Test Drive has confirmed what I have been trying to tell folks for a long time: No two gardens, hay meadows, lawns or pastures are the same! Making an accurate fertilizer recommendation without a soil test is virtually impossible.

A total of 89 soil samples were turned in for the soil test drive and we received 108 recommendations back from the Texas A&M Soil Test Lab in College Station. Some asked for more than one recommendation. We had 12 garden, 10 lawn, 13 hay meadow, 11 pasture, one food plot and nine clover recommendations requested.

The results showed that our soils ranged from 4.1 (very strongly acid) to 7.9 (strongly alkaline) with 43.5 percent of the samples being in the pH zone of 5.3 or below and in dire need of liming to raise the pH so landowners receive full benefit of their fertilizer dollar. We had 33 samples below 5.0 pH (31 percent), 37 between 5.0 and 5.9 (34 percent), and only 38 between 6.0 and 7.9 (35 percent) in the desired range.

Soil pH ranges from 1 to 14 with 6.0 to 8.0 being the desirable growing zone for most plants. As the soil pH drops below 5.3, less and less of the nutrients we apply as fertilizer are available for our plants to feed on.

Our results showed 12 of the 40 garden samples (30 percent) were at or below pH 5.3 along with 40 percent of the lawns, 68 percent or the hay meadows, 78.5 percent of the pastures, and 67 percent of the clover samples. The lone food plot tested at 4.8 pH well below what it needs to be for good growth. All of these samples had lime recommendations for the plants to grow as they should. One lawn called for 40 pounds of lime per 1,000 square feet while others needed 20, 15, or 10 lbs. per thousand square feet.

Every soil analysis had a different fertilizer recommendation depending on what the landowner wanted their site to do.

The bottom line is that trying to make a lime or fertilizer recommendation without a soil analysis is a lot like duck hunting with a blindfold on — you know there is a target you want to hit, but you have no clue if you are shooting high or low and the likelihood of hitting the target is about the same as winning the multi-million dollar lottery.

The Gregg County Extension Agricultural Program will be starting an Urban Horticulture Program in January that will address these and many other issues our urban residents face on a daily and monthly basis. We will be meeting once a month during the year to visit about current and coming things that need to be done in the garden, lawn or landscape. We will begin the programs with a planting guide overview for the next month or so for the gardener, things to consider for specific plants, and some actions that you may need to take immediately for weed control or other actions, and will have time for questions and answers from various “experts” we have available. Keep an eye out for more information on this program after the Christmas Season.

In the meantime, consider getting your soil tested now for next spring’s fertilizer program. You may be surprised at what you find out.

For more information on this or another issue you are interested in, contact Hugh Soape, Gregg County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources, at 903-236-8429 or by e-mail at hsoape@ag.tamu.edu.